There are a lot of good Pasta e Ceci recipes floating around the interwebs. But my recipe is an ode to my family. You could call the creation of this recipe an apology. I’m already on record about what a picky eater I was as a child. Consequently, I missed out on a lot of amazing food that my Italian Grandma and her three sisters made for me during my visits to the beautiful Finger Lakes. I spent a lot of my summers in New York, frolicking in Seneca Lake with Grandma Teresa, collecting zebra mussels and sea shells. Aunt Ginny would sneak me breakfasts- usually bacon, eggs and waffles- and spoiled me rotten.
But it must have hurt their feelings when I resolutely ignored the red pasta sauce- “meaty sauce” my grandmother called it. Instead, grandma would dutifully make me pasta aglio e olio, the only dish I would eat. She would sprinkle in some ceci beans, determined to add extra nutrition. I was a huge pain in the ass, she declared, but she never forced me to eat the red sauce. Sometimes I wish she had. Maybe I would have discovered earlier what I was missing.
Try this recipe- don’t miss out on trying something new like I did. After the first bite, you will be thinking of your Italian Nonna, too. Don’t have one? Make this recipe and you can share mine.
Pasta e Ceci
Serves 3-4 dinner portions, about 6 starter portions.
1 (16 oz) package high quality pasta. I like to use riccioli from Dorothy Lane Market. A thicker fettucine or a ruffled pasta would work, too.
1 (15 oz) can of Garbanzo Beans (ceci), rinsed and divided
2 small yellow onions, sliced very thinly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 (28 oz) can of plum tomatoes- San Marzano recommended
4 Anchovy Filets
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 cup white wine (whatever you have around this house will do)
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for topping
Fresh Basil (optional)
(1) Fill a large pot with cold water and set to boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook the pasta until it is half-way cooked. (about 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta). Drain and set the pasta aside.
(2) Using a blender or a food processor, puree half of the ceci beans. Set aside.
(3) Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan or stock pot on medium heat. Add the onions and red pepper flakes. Cook the onions until translucent, about 4-6 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Add the anchovies and garlic. Allow to cook down until the anchovies have dissolved and the onions are very soft.
(4) Add the wine and then the stock. Allow the mixture to reduce, about two minutes. Then add the ceci puree. Give the mixture a good stir, then add the tomatoes. Allow this mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes, occasionally breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper until the sauce is seasoned to your liking.
(5) Add the pasta and the rest of the ceci. Cook for another 3-4 for minutes, until the pasta is tender and has absorbed a lot of the sauce. Add the pecorino romano. Top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately.